RE: Critique is all good and well, but it does pose a question
"Not unusual for armies, navies, and air forces to plan for the last war, then get solidly trounced in the next one....." Which is why we see "multi-role" platforms like the new frigate, which try and cater for just about every possible role so we don't end up with expensive, one-role ships (cough*air-defence destroyers*cough). But Lewis overplays the RN's clout in actually making many of these long-term strategic decisions, many are settled by White Hall mandarins that have never served on a ship in any form. In wartime we can afford as many single-role, specialist designs as we like, with the Navy pushing for what is actually operationally required, but in peacetime it's just too expensive. So we end up with generalist ships that are sometimes exposed as not good when thrown into an unexpected situation (like having to protect a landing force in the close San Carlos Bay from continuous fast fighter-bomber attacks, with ships and systems actually designed to shoot at the odd Soviet recce Bear in open waters). Those generalist ships do the majority of peacetime roles quite well and to a relatively cheap budget. And I say cheap as we tend to keep them for many years, rather than refreshing with a new design whenever a new threat arrives (or ships are lost to action, as happens in wartime).
"....So I pose a question: What will conflicts in the next score years look like, how big will they be, and what fleet, army, and air assets does one need to hold one's own with some hope of trouncing the enemy?....." If we were truly planning independent large operations, then more destroyers and heli-carriers would make more sense. But the truth is our politicians are unlikely to ever commit us to another independent war again. Even the Falklands was completely unexpected. The intention is that our Navy will work either as a small part of an Allied fleet (which means playing a token role in support of the US), or as part of a combined European fleet (which means playing guess-the-role with a bunch of unelected Eurocrats with a level of rampant corruption that make BAe look like schoolgirls).
Looking ahead, the RN will probably be tasked with the following for the next twenty years:
1. Anti-smuggling ops, especially in the Carribean.
2. Anti-piracy ops, especially off Africa and possibly in the South-East Asian environment.
3. Fulfilling the anti-submarine and mine-sweeping roles as part of an Allied (US) fleet in a UN role (possibly against Iran as they do have a few subs and plenty of mines, very unlikley against the Norks, Russians or Chinese).
4. Acting as a deterent to a bankrupt Argentinian navy.
5. Supporting disaster relief ops, where actual shooting is unlikley to involve anything bigger than a Gimpy.
For all the above, even the current Type 22/23s are quite effective (especially with Lewis's other bugbear, the Merlin), so maybe we should spend more on modernising those old hull designs to stretch them for another twenty years rather than replacing the lot with a "do-all" new design. BAe does do a lot of open market design work at the taxpayers expense, but then that is because politicians let them as a way of safeguearding jobs in "deprived" areas. Having said that, it would be horribly expensive to buy up old merchantships and refit them (all different and individual refits with each having to be an individual redesign), and then maintain all those different designs with their different machinery, even if their combat systems were common. The only way round that would be a mass order of a single merchant design, and that would then probably lead to modifications being made to the design to suit the new role, pushing up the price as it moves away from be a merchantship to being a hybrid that probably does less but costs almost the same.
But I do disagree with the idea of the carrier being the multi-role solution to everything, as it is also an all-eggs-in-one-basket solution - we usually can't afford more than two or three at a time, which usually means only one in any outing. Should an opposing force sink the carrier then the rest of the one-role ships in the area will be sitting ducks, so they actually need to be capable of looking out for themselves.
/Pirate icon for obvious reasons ;)